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5/20/2010
05:56 PM
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When Should SMBs Use Cloud Storage?

When should your SMB use cloud storage? When there's a compelling business reason to make use of the technology.

When should your SMB use cloud storage? When there's a compelling business reason to make use of the technology.That sounds painfully obvious. But given the vendor dogpile that's happening in this space, and the resulting crush of marketing messages SMBs hear, I think it's a point that needs to be repeated.

InformationWeek blogger George Crump makes precisely this point in his most recent post. And as he puts it, the most successful cloud use cases are those where the technology "became a natural extension to either an existing process or it came as a component of a solution to another problem they were trying to solve."

The first part of that example, Crump states, usually involves ISVs who offer cloud storage as an integrated part of their own solutions. Those are pretty clear-cut usage scenarios -- provided, of course, you have a good working relationship and trust the ISV to look out for your best interests.

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But the second part is more interesting to me, and probably to many of you. Here, Crump says, it's a matter of situations where "a storage manager has a specific problem to solve and the solution happens to leverage cloud storage as a component of solving that problem."

Those cases often involve the need for a fast, flexible, cost-effective backup and archiving solution. But don't overlook the possibility of using cloud-based storage to augment a primary storage solution, as well. Here, as Crump notes, a good example would be a NAS or SAN solution that extends into the cloud as an archival "medium" for older or less frequently accessed data.

When those integrated solutions work, they often work very well. A case in point: Solutions that are smart enough to work effectively even if the connection to the cloud provider is interrupted, for example through the use of intelligent data-caching technology.

Here's the bottom line: When a vendor comes to you with a cloud-based storage solution, take a very hard look if the cloud component solves a real business technology problem or simply pads the vendor's marketing pitch. If it's the former, don't hesitate to embrace it.

If it's the latter, don't hesitate to walk away.

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